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Robert Abel: Founder of Robert Abel & Associates

Robert Abel & Associates, a seminal CG studio of the 1970s and 1980s,pioneered digitally controlled motion-control photography and the use ofcomputers for pre-visualization and animation. RAA’s landmark CG andeffects commercials prompted New York’s Museum of Modern Art to note thatAbel’s work “changed forever the look of American television.”

We’ve reached a watershed time in the art of telling stories. Even thoughas storytellers we are not that different from the guys who painted on cavewalls, we now have slick tools, and the world is paying a lot moreattention. Increasingly powerful tools will make it easier to manipulateimages and also to produce digital assets-like 3-D characters-that can bere-used. The companies that can take advantage of this will do well.

But I see a more fundamental change than simply making images digitallyinstead of mechanically. In the past, it took a while for art to catch upwith new technologies. Everybody talks about the significance of theGutenberg press, but it took 150 years for Cervantes to turn that powerinto a novel. Today, art is pushing technology. Steven Spielberg’s desireto tell the story of Jurassic Park is what drove people to come up withtechnology to support it.

As technology becomes more affordable, you will not have to be Spielberg totell your stories to the world. Computers that cost $12,000 are replacingmachines that cost $100,000 just a few years ago, and tremendous numbers ofpeople are writing software to support them. It’s a quantum leap, and wewill find that the people who are going to be the storytellers-I am noteven going to call them filmmakers because their medium could be tape orother digital media-will increase ten-fold in the next 10 years. An obviousresponse would be to say, “Well there won’t be enough theaters to supportthat!” But the reality is that they are not going to need theaters. Theirimages will come pouring in through your television set or the Internet oron DVD.

Because of digital communications, millions of nameless, faceless peopleare gaining an identity on the Internet, and their stories are becomingaccessible. This change in how we entertain, educate, and share informationwill be at least as important as the industrial revolution in terms of itsimpact on society. We are not in isolated little caves anymore, but we willstill need to tell stories around the campfire. It’s just that with medialike the Internet available to us, the campfire never goes out.